the Willem Love Collective
The Willem Love Collective
on their reggabwoW project.
Imagine logging on to h2g2 one day, expecting to find your usual
conversations, when suddenly there's a special personal message
your user space. Clicking on the link reveals a message with the
'you are loved...' and contains a short note telling you why you are
wonderful person. This is what happened to me a few weeks, what has
to a few other Researchers, and may, in fact probably will, happen to
These very flattering messages are being posted by the Willem Love
Collective, in a project that has been given the name 'reggabwoW'.
If you haven't yet guessed it, 'reggabwoW', is the
name 'Wowbagger' spelt
backwards. Wowbagger was the character in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the
books, who decided to insult each and every person in the universe.
'Reverse Wowbagger' project aims to greet each and every active
on h2g2 and tell them they are loved. Naturally, a project of this
requires quite a lot of effort, and so there are a number of
involved, operating under the Umbrella of the 'Willem Love
met up with the collective to talk to them about this novel idea.
The first question I had to ask was about who exactly the Willem
Sea: 'There are a lot of us; so many that I'm never quite
is actually in the Collective! There's Not Banned Yet, Happydude, a
called Ben, Dancer, Willem, me, Gw7en, Fenny, Big Bad Mr T,
Dastardly, Comrade Rumble, JLC, Lynne, the Shee, sea,
Arlecchino, and - last, but certainly not least - Mourning Becomes
But I don't claim to have a definitive list.'
The collective has an interesting and heartwarming story. One
these interviews has shown is just how kind and caring the h2g2
can be. From clubs like the Mutual Admiration Society to simple,
replies to journal postings, h2g2 seems to be full of love. As the
explain, the formation of the Willem Love Collective follows in
Sea: 'Basically, a guy called Willem
was having a really rough time a
while ago, and so a bunch of h2g2 Researchers got together and helped
through it. We made the Willem Love Collective to give him, and other
people, a place to go where everyone cares, and where
things are pleasant.'
called Ben: 'Willem was suffering what on this
site should probably be called a 'long dark teatime of the soul'.
he sent an email to one of his online friends here, and she contacted
many others as she could. A group of people who knew Willem from h2g2
emails then spent hours trying to contact him in every way they
Dancer: 'The collective grew from
that one night of deep concern where
we spent hours on Instant Messenger, h2g2, email and even the
Police Dept trying to get the message through to Will that he is
special, is important and that the world would be poorer without him.
the following days and weeks, more and more people have joined the
and we came up with the Reverse Wowbagger idea, which was quickly
with great enthusiasm by the rapidly growing Love Collective.'
Willem gives his account.
Willem: 'I am a 29-year-old guy who
lives in South
Africa and suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. I have had virtually
real-life friends, but have made lots of friends through the
primarily h2g2. These friends of mine helped me when things seemed
hopeless for me. Now, in large part thanks to their help, I am
of help in RL, and I hope making friends here too. I may soon even be
getting to meet
in person one of the people that I have met here.'
A question I've asked a lot is whether h2g2 is a community. I've
for many years now with various organisations to create and build online
communities. Whether projects are successful or not has often been a
topic of discussion. I've even spent time working with a University
student who was examining examples of online communities. 'Community'
ideal which often doesn't even exist within the real world, so creating
over the enormous, inpersonal internet can seem like a big challenge.
Nevertheless it does seem to happen, and the ways in which online
become communities is often quite amazing. This project strikes me as
such example. I ask the Collective whether they think h2g2 can
called a community...
Sea: 'Yes, I think so. What else
would you call such an enormous
like-minded people who gather in a common area to share experiences
thoughts? I've always considered h2g2 to be a bit of a utopia; for
part we get along pretty well and, well, we care about
each other... we had a few slight problems when the bbc took over, but
are getting back to normal, I think.'
Dancer: 'Sure it is. And not only is
it a wonderful community, it's
also one of the only online communities I know that were saved from
commercialised with pornos and product selling all over them, and I
do have the BBC to
thank for that. The major parts I love in this community are the
friendliness and kindness of people, the sharing of knowledge and
and the support we give each other.'
called Ben: I certainly know of no other online place which
could have created the love necessary for the intervention that
the time I was reminded very
strongly of how the village I lived in reacted when some twelve year
a seven year old way back when. A group of people coming together to
in compassion, strength, sorrow, fear, and sheer bloody love. However
think h2g2 is several communities. One thing which I personally found
enriching about the time immediately after September 11th was that we
came out of our different ghettos and posted in the Twin Towers
met long term researchers I never even knew about in those
Willem: 'Not yet... There are
communities in h2g2, but the entire site
is not a community. There are pieces and people that are loose from
is some internal division. I think we can do with activities to unify
strengthen the various communities that exist here, and I think the
can help with such community-building.'
Community-building is a never-ending process as communities,
online ones, are in a constant state of fluctuation and change. The
Love Collective and the reggabwoW project aim to help build a better
community and reach out to more people. I ask the group how else the
can be made an even happier, friendlier place.
Willem: 'By encouraging positive
interactions so that people talk to
more, learn from each other more. The reggabwoW project does
but there is still much more that we can do. I will have ideas over
suggest them to people. We need to encourage tolerance and
too. There is still much intolerance, bias and narrowmindedness here.
instead of attacking such attitudes, we at the WLC can simply put in
of work into displaying the opposite, positive, loving attitudes to
Sea: 'I think the biggest thing that
we need to do is try not to take
personally. Everything starts to get a little tense when people get
offended. The universe is a fun place, we just have to know when to be
serious and when not to.'
Dancer: 'Well, I think that very few
active researchers get it wrong,
the rest are
close to ideal friendliness. The guide itself is working on it, and I
there's a good crew up in the towers. I don't agree with everything
or decide, but I guess even they
have to do things they don't really 100% agree on, just that the job
stuff you have to do. I had that lot in the army, making decisions I
called Ben: 'I am not sure it's neccesary to actually do
anything to make the community a better place. Friendliness is good,
happiness is a
by-product not an end-product and you cannot make someone or something
happy. Neither is it right that anyone should be happy all of the
learn in our troughs, though we may prefer the peaks.'
I ask what the group liked about the idea behind the Willem Love
Collective and the reggabwoW project.
Dancer: 'There are two major points
in it that I like. First is that
is is impartial and it is set to tell absolutely everyone that they
are loved and respected. The second major thing is that it is a
collabarative project. Everyone who asked to join in with the effort
has been accepted, and it continues to draw people in. It is a proof that
still care enough to give of their
precious time in order to makes others feel good and, as a Guardian
I am Patron Saint of making people feel good about themselves so it
very important to me. Other good things about it are making friends
getting to express emotions...'
Willem: 'What I like about the
Collective is that it is an 'oasis of
love and positivity'. The goal of the group is neatly framed in a way
is almost guaranteed to be
constructive and valuable. The reggabwoW project is framed in such a
that we have to endeavour to see everything that is good in people,
them that they will appreciate and that will improve their
called Ben: 'It is love in action - love as a wanton act of
communication - love almost as an act of agression, if that is not
of an oxymoron. And it is
also a communal thing. Different individuals sign on and edit the
is like tending a garden, you are never sure what will have sprung up
you were away.'
The target to send a message to every Researcher on h2g2 is very
ambitious. I ask how long will it take to greet everyone.
Dancer: There are a lot of people to
greet and, after we're done, new people are will still be joining all the time.
It will be a long time until
everybody has been greeted, but all the people who log on a lot will be
quickly I believe, as people tend to go through the 'Who is online'
greet people from there. Wowbagger the infinitely prolonged had all
of eternity to
insult everyone in
the universe of time and space. The Love Collective can last as long
there are the people with the will to do it...
The Shee: 'h2g2 is always going to
so we are going to have to keep moving forward as well. Right now, I
am trying to avoid people with 'New This Week!' on their tags,
don't know if they are ever going to come back. People that we have
personally talked to
before, or met, or know from something else, like The Post, are also
likely to be greeted right now because we have something to say to
We're going to get there! Hey, we are up to 60 people at this exact
and we've only been trying to do this for about two weeks! I think
that is a
decent number... Sixty people is a lot!'
called Ben: 'Forever, or as long as h2g2 exists, since new
people will keep on joining!'
Finally, I ask how other people can get involved.
Willem: 'Very easily! They only need
to ask... People can simply
contribute some good and kind words to our pages or, if they have
time, they can join the reggabwoW
project. And if anyone has any other really good ideas, then suggest
them to us, and start
a project of your own!'
The reggabwoW project is a fantastic project, and is an example of
h2g2 at its most caring. If you haven't yet received your loving
greeting, then keep an eye on your user space, one day it will be you!
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